April 13, 2011
Written by Joe Parsio (Biddle Law Library, Head of Access Services)
I like a good cup of coffee in the morning. Well, actually three cups. Two before I leave the house and one once I get to the law library. It's not hard finding coffee at the law school. There are at least six places to go within one city block. Coffee seems like a civil enough subject and yet... coffee has long been a subject of a variety of litigation ranging from trademark infringement to trade disputes to negligence.
The Little Book of Coffee Law by Carol Robertson (Chicago: American Bar Association, c2010) is a great book that Biddle just recently added to its collection. It tells the story of the coffee business through legal cases involving the production, distribution, marketing and sale of coffee, from the beginnings of the U.S. as a nation to the present. It also describes coffee innovations such as: vacuum-sealed coffee, instant coffee, and competition among coffee shops. Robertson’s book explains “fair trade" coffee and looks at the relationships of Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks.
Did you know someone was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for a scheme where Panamanian coffee beans were unbagged and swapped into Kona bags and sold at four times the price? Starbucks is frequently mentioned in the book, with its VIA brew and its "home away from home" living room feeling. But did you know that Samantha Buck Lundberg was sued by Starbucks for opening Sambuck's Coffeehouse? Other subjects that Robertson covers include coffee and the slave trade, and the development of coffee breaks. She notes that by the year 2000 Vietnam had surpassed Columbia as the world’s second largest coffee growing country! If you want the real scoop on the McDonald's coffee scalding case take a break from the grind, grab a cup of tea, and pick up this book.